He plays his trumpet for them

I am writing this on Nov. 11, just before 11 a.m., just before we gather to bow our heads in respect, in sorrow, in gratitude, in wonder, with emotion, with a quiet heaviness in our hearts for this day of remembering.
We are reminded about those things that matter, standing firm for truth, bracing our backs to support fairness and inclusion, and putting our hands out to serve, to lift those who can’t.
Travis Enge was to play “The Last Post” in Fort Frances that morning at the cenotaph. He will lift his trumpet to his lips. He will tremble a little bit, hesitate for just a second or two, will wiggle his lips and blow air around in his cheeks.
He’ll swallow, maybe several times, keeping his emotion in control so he can do this honoured thing, this privilege, from a place of being safe and warm and free.
He will exhale and blow the first note and then he will know, he can do this.
Travis’ family will look on. Tena will be proud that she shares her life with this man to whom music comes easily, innately; who steps forward and takes his place today, is an example to his family and friends.
Their children will stand beside, not really sure what this all means, why Nov. 11 is honoured with such determination, such reverence, but feeling its importance, sensing it from the hushed and sombre crowd.
The air will have a bite to it. Bits of snow may blow about, and everyone will shiver.
It’s almost fitting, though, for Nov. 11 to be uncomfortable, cold, to make us draw up our shoulders and pull our necks in to contain the warmth that rises up from beneath the collars of our coats and jackets; the cold that makes us drive our gloved hands deep into our pockets.
We shudder at the thought of men, hardly more than boys, really, trudging through cold and mud, hungry, frightened, homesick, injured. For us.
Travis will play for his grandfathers. First, he will play for John Richard Stewart, who was a Burma Bomber, a squadron leader of a fleet of Liberators, stationed in India during the Second World War.
Travis was only two months old when his grandfather died, but from somewhere inside he remembers his grandfather, remembers being held and smiled at, remembers the enormous pride his grandfather felt gazing at Travis’ perfect face; his grandfather imagining the things they would do together, what he would teach Travis, had he been given a chance.
Travis plays “The Last Post” for those memories, for that man.
Travis plays for the grandfather who “stepped” in, he plays for Kenneth Harold Wickstrom, who served his country as a member of The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, joining up when he was barely 17, just a boy, a man who embraced the Stewart “kids” and claimed them as his own, without hesitation.
Travis plays for all the faces lost, for those who didn’t come home, for those who came home wounded and broken.
He plays for those who experienced the first Remembrance Day in 1918, at the official end of World War 1, who were certain such horror would never be repeated.
His emotion is for why such conflict existed and exists still today. Why such loss, why honour is so threatened and so hard to hold on to, its enemies crowding in from all sides.
Travis plays for you and for me. He is my nephew.
My world and yours is better because he plays his trumpet. Today. On Nov. 11, 2011 at 11 a.m.
wendistewart@live.ca

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